Mark Reads ‘Men at Arms’- Part 3

In the third part of Men at Arms, things start to get explosive. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.


Vimes in Retirement

I don’t think I was supposed to be surprised by the fact that Vimes is already being drawn back into his life as a Guard, despite the fact that he really didn’t go anywhere. It’s fascinating that his general apathy can be ignored whenever he gets an inkling of something marginally exciting or different. I say “ignored” because it’s not like it entirely disappears, and throughout the first part of this section, Vimes struggles with what he’s supposed to do with his life now that he’s getting married. At the very least, he doesn’t want to end up like old Sergeant Kepple, who retired and hung around the Guard until he literally died there. Despite that the Guard is growing and there are actual new people in the Night Watch, it’s still a lonely affair. Does Vimes want to die a Guard and only have other Guards show up to his funeral?

This helps inform why Vimes’ shock is so great when he meets with Lady Ramkin’s solicitor. Well, let’s also be real with ourselves. Sybil turns out to be a multi-millionaire WILLING TO GIVE HER ENTIRE FORTUNE TO SAM VIMES IMMEDIATELY. That will certainly guarantee that he won’t die in obscurity. But is that a fair trade? Is that something Vimes wants, and is it worth it for all of the horrible people he’ll have to meet through his wife? Lady Ramkin is utter perfection, but I imagine that she’s the exception to the rule for rich people in Ankh-Morpork, you know? Regardless, Vimes doesn’t make a decision one way or another because EVERYTHING EXPLODES.

The Assassin’s Guild

Well, that surprised me. A LOT OF THIS DID. Why would Edward blow up the Assassin’s Guild? What does this have to do with Beano the clown???

Before I get to the details of this, I just have to gush because I NEVER ONCE EXPECTED GASPODE TO EVER BE IN ANOTHER DISCWORLD BOOK. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW EXCITED I AM? Look, his character destroyed me during Moving Pictures, and I’m so thrilled to see him return. It’s especially great because he’s immediately paired with Angua, the only person who follows Gaspode away from the scene. It’s not lost on my that the previous Night Watch Guards all deplore the fact that women are now allowed as Guards, and yet it’s Angua who figures out what happened before everyone else. I love that! But we also have to talk about this:

“And it don’t take much intelligence to spot what you are, neither.”

Angua looked panicky.

“Where does it show?”

“It’s the smell, girl. Din’t you learn nuffin? Smelled you a mile orf. I thought, oh-ho, what’s one of them doing in the Watch, eh?”

WHAT? WHAT??? What do you mean? Gaspode can’t possibly mean that she’s a woman because… it’s obvious? What would she be able to hide in plain sight that Gaspode could discern from smell? I DON’T GET IT AT ALL, BUT I AM SO INTO THIS SUBPLOT.

I am also angry that we’re just barely into Men at Arms and I’m already hooked by the mystery. Vimes is hooked, too, and as I said earlier, it’s cool to see that spark of interest ignite in him as he tries to put together this case. As it stands, we’ve got Edward’s theft at the center of this, and Pratchett infuriatingly teases us with what it was that Edward stole from the Guild’s museum:

It was so simple! Why hide it away? Probably because people were afraid. People were always afraid of power. It made them nervous.

Edward picked it up, cradled it for a while, and found that it seemed to fit his arm and shoulder very snugly.

You’re mine.


What’s cool about this, though, is the fact that even though Vimes is quietly in opposition to the diversification of the Watch, Pratchett is showing us the value in having people from different backgrounds and cultures around. There’s that awesome scene where Vimes and the group are crossing the Brass Bridge, and each of them add one bit of deduction to the greater picture. Cuddy knew about fireworks, Carrot knew about mirrors and assassins, and Angua knew about the exploding dragon. See what can happen if you assemble a team?

Except Vimes doesn’t see it that way. His bias against women, non-humans, and the undead isn’t a secret at all, and his older colleagues often refer to it in passive terms. He’s just old-fashioned or stubborn! The truth is that he’s bigoted, plain and simple. He hates and despises these groups, he grumbles and complains about the days when things were better, and he’s not shy about it. Of course, what does he mean by this? How was the world better? I suspect that it’s a matter of perspective, first of all, but I’d also argue that the world was simply different. Just because things didn’t remain the same doesn’t mean they’re worse, you know?

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be season 1 of Agent Carter, seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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